Originally Posted by Kamaloha
Thanks for all the great info in this thread. I've just read all the posts and have one additional Q for you. We are in the Rio and will head
out in about a week. I've been getting all sorts of strange tales at happy hours about Belizian clearance . I was originally intending to clear at Punta Gorda, but some say that is a bad idea, wait until Placencia, and other says Placencia is a real hassle. Got any intel for me here?
Well intentioned cruisers in recent years have been working their way up the food
chain of officialdom to try and get consistency (or bitch about how they were treated...bad idea). IMHO this is a waste of time and has just stirred up more trouble. Consistency is never going to happen in Belize
(I've never experienced it in doing business there since 2005). The end result has been higher fees
and more hassles. S**t rolls down hill as they say and guess who is at the bottom of that hill...the "rich" foreigner on the sailboat who many Belizeans resent being in "we sea" in the first place. Some front line officials resent cruisers trying to go over their heads and will act accordingly when the boss man is not watching (...had some friends caught sideways by that last year).
Interpretation of Belize regulations
, or lack thereof (not much written law regarding cruising vessels), is totally at the whim of who happens to be working that day. As a result, you can get hassled/gouged clearing in/out anywhere in Belize or it can go smooth as silk.
I've not been running boats back and forth much recently, but below is my 2c on PG and Big Creek below based on past experiences.
PG. They have a fancy new building and all officials are right there so that is handy. Tends to be more consistent than others, but I have heard of folks having trouble here too. Anchorage is unprotected from prevailing winds so if you want to clear here then I suggest you do it in the AM before the sea breeze kicks up and only during settled weather
. You can anchor
behind Orange Point just south of PG if you need to wait until the AM (protection in prevailing winds and W-NW, but wide open to SE). Also, PG is about 12nm west of the rhumb line to Placencia (026T from Livingston sea bouy) so it is more of a detour than most people think.
Big Creek (Placencia). Has been a logistics hassle in the past because all departments have been spread out around the area and you have to take a taxi around. And, there have certainly been officials there off and on the past who had a serious attitude. They have been constructing new buildings and I know are working towards consolidating into one area, but I have not cleared there very recently myself so don't know how this is coming along. In the past they have hassled you if you did not bring the boat around physically into Big Creek (although I personally have NEVER had an official board my boat there). This has changed recently. I was aboard a boat which cleared in there a few months ago (although I did not do the paper chase myself) and he took the dinghy
around to Big Creek after anchoring
in Placencia. Minor hassles (because it was a foreign boat registered in Belize...which many officials resent), but overall it was routine. Don't know what he was charged, but will find out (email sent).
It would be interesting to set-up a small database where people could log the level of hassles and fee's they were charged and then see what the spread is after one season. Maybe a poll
here on CF to collect some basic data. Lot's of boats leaving the Rio now, and I saw a lot in Placencia Harbor just last week, so should have some good data regarding what is going on this season. Think I will set up a poll
My suggestions, regardless of where you clear in Belize: Keep your head down, mouth shut, don't question/criticize/complain, don't offer any info or do anything unless explicit requested to do, always request a receipt for any payment (...unless of course you know it is "unofficial"..."fee" for "service" works quite well in Belize...foreign beer
works wonders too).
Also from another reply I wrote below:
Official Attitude. Most Belizean officials have a bit of an attitude. I think it is part of their training. They are usually grumpy and unhelpful, and begrudgingly complete their task, but occasionally they will surprise you and be helpful (...especially if a little “tip” passes their way). Be patient and polite even when it is really hard to do so. Remember "Choose your battles carefully"...and this is NOT one you are going to win.
Consistency. Many cruisers have gotten frustrated in recent years because the fees for clearing in and out of Belize change like the wind...sometimes as quick as between you and the next guy in line!
Bottom Line: Deal with it, where the hell do you think you are (Guatemala?), this is Belize.